Universities Scotland responds to the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on the Graduate Route for international students  

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has today, published its report evaluating the Graduate Route, as part of student immigration, as commissioned by the UK Government earlier this year. The key recommendation, one of six in the report, is that the Graduate Route should be retained in its current form.

The MAC was asked to review the evidence to respond to five questions, including whether there is any abuse of the post study work route, the demographics of those using the route for employment in the UK and whether international students using the graduate route are contributing to the UK economy. The UK Government is expected to respond to the report over the coming weeks.

Responding to the report, Professor Iain Gillespie, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“The MAC’s independent review is clear; the graduate route should remain in its current form. In answering the UK Government’s concerns, the MAC has found no evidence of abuse and no suggestion that the integrity of the higher education sector has been compromised. Even more positively, beyond the benefit the route brings to universities and students, the report makes clear the graduate route visa is working for the UK economy.

“Having an internationally competitive post study visa is absolutely fundamental to the financial viability of Scotland’s universities. The MAC is clear that if it were removed or reformed it would create an immediate and colossal funding problem across the UK. That challenge would be even greater in Scotland, as the MAC’s evidence highlights a greater reliance on international fees to cover domestic costs.

“The MAC’s job was to consider the evidence. It is for the UK Government to make policy. Early indications are that the Government’s recent restrictions on student immigration have already had a significant impact on numbers. We urge the UK Government to review this evidence carefully, and to commit to the retention of the graduate route as it currently is.”



  • You can find the MAC report in full here here:
  • Scotland’s universities recruit 82,000 students from over 170 countries across the world, which make a net positive contribution of at least £4.75bn to the Scottish economy.
  • In response to the five questions posed by the UK Government, the MAC’s review found no evidence of abuse of  the route. It also found no evidence that the graduate route was compromising the integrity of the UK higher education system. The full set of questions and answers can be found, in summary, on page 61 onward.
  • The MAC report highlights the extent of universities’ financial reliance on cross-subsidy from international students. This is particularly acute for universities in Scotland, as shown in figure 4.15 on page 54.
  • Earlier today, Universities Scotland and the Scottish Cities Alliance published an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him to keep the review, highlighting the economic impact and cultural vibrancy that international students make to Scotland’s cities. The positive impact  of international students in Scotland is felt far beyond university campuses.
  • Yesterday, a separate report from Migration Policy Scotland into public attitudes to migration found that 79% of Scots support the graduate route visa policy or have no views about it.  It also found that 68% of the public is supportive of increasing or retaining international student numbers at current levels.